With early voting beginning in the Republican primary election on Monday, February 14, Texas Scorecard asked candidates in the race for Texas House District 11 a series of questions to help voters make up their minds before heading to the polls.

Greg Caldwell
Travis Clardy (No response received)
Rachel Hale
Mark Williams (No response received)

The following are the full, unedited responses we received.

Why are you running for office?
Hale: Like many others, I realized just how scary big government can be during the height of the pandemic. More than the threat of a virus, we saw just how threatening unchecked power can be. I was fearful for my business, my ability to worship, and certainly what would happen without good people stepping up to the plate. So I stepped up and got involved. I found my mission in being a grassroots advocate at the local and state level. I paid attention to the 87th legislative session which only cemented my view that now, and more than ever, we need strong, accountable, and bold leadership in our Legislature. 

Caldwell: I have never run for political office. I never had any intention of running for a political office. But the pandemic set in and government intruded in our lives in ways that the Constitution prohibits. They said you can’t go to church. They said you can’t go to work, unless you are deemed “essential.” Both of those violate rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Then our elected officials violated their oaths from when they took office of “to defend and protect the Constitution….” The reality hit me that if no one steps up, nothing changes. 

What are the three main issues facing the district you hope to represent? How will you address them?
Hale: There are a ton of important issues on the table. Three issues the incumbent and I differ on are taxpayer-funded lobbying, medical freedom, and medicaid expansion. Our current Representative voted against the ban on taxpayer-funded lobbying, which would have banned the use of our tax dollars to work against us. He voted with all the Democrats against an amendment to ban executive mask mandates last session, and refuses to call for a special session to address vaccine mandates (and other critical issues). He, furthermore, signed onto a Democrat bill last session to expand medicaid. I support helping fellow Texans in need, but medicaid expansion will only intensify our current unemployment problem. I will lead on these issues, and many more issues, in the Texas House. 

Caldwell: 1) I will fight to stop federal mandates that threaten peoples livelihoods, like vaccine mandates that threaten careers of healthcare workers and military. 2) I will immediately push to secure the border by various means, not just using our hardworking law enforcement as window dressing for photo ops. 3) I will ban taxpayer funded lobbying.

Texans all across the state are reporting an ever-increasing property tax burden. Should the property tax system be fixed? If so, how?
Hale: While I’ve been out meeting voters, I’ve heard the exact same thing. I support the complete elimination of property taxes. Until that gains mainstream legislative support, a great starting point would be to eliminate the School M&O Property Tax. Coming in at almost 50% of our tax bills, School M&O makes up the biggest portion of the property tax burden. Funding schools by fair market-value transactions, instead of arbitrary home valuations, would make school funding inherently more accountable and fairer. By trimming unnecessary government spending and using the budget surplus to fund schools, we likely would not even need to raise the sales tax to adequately fund schools.

Caldwell: Yes, the current property tax system should be fixed. To start with, the entire state government should learn to live within its means and should start at $0 each year and justify any dollars that they receive, instead of starting at the previous budget and adding dollars.Then the property tax should be reduced with the budget surpluses. Then any remaining shortfall could be made up with a slight increase in sales tax. This should be put to the voters in the form of a constitutional amendment.

Should Democrats serve as committee chairs in the Texas Legislature?
Hale: For far too long, Democrats have been allowed to rule from the minority on a host of issues because they control the process in some Committees. Since the spotlight was on the Texas House during the quorum bust, hopefully we will see a stronger majority of Republicans that will vote against allowing Democrat committee chairs next session. Regardless, I opposed this before the quorum bust, and I will adamantly oppose it if it’s included in next session’s House rules package.

Caldwell: For far too long, Republicans have allowed Democrats to hold chairs despite the fact that Republicans hold the majorities in both houses. Republicans have used this as an excuse to not push the Republican priorities forward. The old adage, “elections have consequences!” should hold true. This change would keep events like the Democrats leaving the state from upending Texas’ legislative process. 

How would you characterize the state’s response to the coronavirus? What would you have done differently?
Hale: The tyrannical business closures, mask mandates, and inaction on vaccine mandates are certainly positions I would not and have not taken. Hindsight is 20/20 and we learned a lot from our mistakes. We passed some good policies in response to COVID management in Texas. Regardless, there is more work to do. I will fight to pass legislation curtailing emergency government powers. The decision to wear a mask, get a vaccine, or keep your business open, is your decision to make and not the role of government to mandate.

Caldwell: The state walked all over rights that are protected by the Constitution when they restricted and closed churches and picked winners and losers when it came to businesses being open by deeming them essential or non-essential. (Freedom of Religion, Equal Protection). Immediate legislative measures must be taken to make sure these overreaches never happen again. 

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